Thursday, May 10, 2018

Guest Post: Top Tips on Returning To Work After Maternity Leave

Ladies we have a guest today, so let's be on our best behaviour! Only joking. But guys you know that this is the place we as women can turn to for great communications, career and life advice. And I only want to be putting out content that will add value to our lives. So when it came to this topic, there was no one better I could think of than Winnie. She's an HR professional and a new mummy who knows her stuff when it comes to returning to work after maternity leave! So please enjoy, and leave your comments below. And once you are done, please visit her blog!

After seven great months of maternity leave, it was finally time to go back to work. Whilst this was always in the plan even before giving birth, and I had mentally prepared myself for it, it was still emotionally challenging! For the last six months, my life had been dedicated to being a mother and I had started to lose my sense of self. Also, as I knew most people take a year off for maternity leave, I felt very guilty going back to work so early.

I'm so blessed to work in an organisation that gives mums six months of full pay during maternity leave. Mums are then given statutory maternity pay for the next three months and then no pay in the last three. I am so grateful for the six months I got to spend with my daughter and will forever be grateful to have been paid fully in that time. It wasn’t financially viable for me to stay at home after that so after taking an extra month of annual leave, it made sense to go back to work.

Nearly a month in, it has gone very well and whilst I miss my daughter so much during the day, it’s been great being back at work. For any mums returning to work after any period of maternity leave, here are a few bits of advice based on my experience.

Inform your employer about your plan to return
Speak to your manager or HR manager about your return as soon as you possibly can. This will enable them to make the right arrangements for your return. Many organisations get it wrong anyway, but giving some notice always helps especially if you need support transitioning back into work.

Flexible working
Make sure you have a discussion about flexible working with your manager before you return if it will help make your transition easier. Some organisations offer flexible start and finish times, working from home, job sharing, compressed hours, phased returns and so much more! Have a think about which options would work best and put a request in to your employer as soon as possible.

Own your decision to return
Not everyone will support or understand your decision to return to work no matter what the circumstances are. Avoid trying to explain to unreasonable or negative people and own your decision. Remember that it is your life and your family, therefore the decision is yours to make.

Embrace your emotions
Returning to work can be difficult for some and easy for others. Either way, it’s important to acknowledge how you feel about the transition. Many mums feel bad about being worried or try to push their emotions aside because they think they should. Going back to work is a massive change and we all react differently. You are entitled to your thoughts and feelings. Embracing how you feel will help you manage your emotions and seek support where needed.

Find childcare as soon as possible
Arranging childcare for my daughter early on during my maternity leave really helped me to feel more relaxed about my decision to go back to work. Most nurseries tend to have long waiting lists, so ensuring you have childcare arrangements confirmed as soon as possible makes things less stressful down the line.


Settling in
Whatever your childcare arrangements may be, arrange settling in sessions to enable your child and carer(s) to settle in. It’s also a great opportunity to identify more ways to make your drop offs and pick ups easier or more efficient. Settling in sessions can sometimes be more stressful for mum than baby though, so endeavour to do something nice rather than being alone during these sessions.


Be organised but make room for surprises
I’ve found that preparing for the day before really helps in making the mornings less stressful. Leaving as little as possible for the mornings gives you a better start each day. Whilst it helps to plan as effectively as possible, expect some surprises. In my case, I had a conversation with my manager in advance of my return and discussed how to manage any unexpected incidents like sickness or childcare issues. This made me feel much more reassured when issues did arise.


Breastfeeding
If you are breastfeeding, ensure that you start to reduce the frequency of your feeds gradually before returning to work to minimise the risk of pain or mastitis. If you plan to continue to breastfeed, invest in a good breast pump and make sure there is somewhere at work for you to pump comfortably. Schedule time in your diary to do so.


Speak to other working mums for advice/Utilise your support network
I had a friend who went to work at 4 months. Speaking to her enabled me to understand what challenges to plan for. More importantly, it helped me to feel reassured. Where I work, we have a great parents and carers colleague network which is so helpful. Outside of that, I am grateful to have a manager and colleagues who are mums. Think about who within your network would be helpful to speak to before and after you return to work.


Stay focused on your purpose
Thinking about the greater purpose behind you going back helps you to focus. In my case, it’s made me more motivated as it forces me to make every hour away from my daughter count for something worthwhile. I don’t just go to work to mark time, it makes me passionate about making an impact whilst I am there.

Becoming a mother can bring so much joy but is equally one of life’s greatest challenges. I encourage you to relish the good things about returning to work. Hot cups of tea, peeing alone and eating lunch on schedule can feel so amazing after a few months of not being able to do so. If you are going through the transition of returning, I wish you all the best and send love and encouragement your way. It gets easier, I promise!



Winnie Annan-Forson is an HR Professional, blogger, wife, mum and child of God navigating life's challenges one day at a time. Her blog, In Its Own Time, is a faith-based blog centred around her honest experiences as a believer. She is a Black British Business and WeAreTheCity Rising Star award winner and is passionate about women's development - something she dedicates as much spare time to supporting as possible. Her hobbies are eating and getting into a great Netflix series!



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If you'd like to guest write for us please send an email to contact@madelinewilsonojo.com
Also, let us know if Winnie's tips helped and if you have any more to add to the list!
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